Letter from Vermont
JUST A NOTE to let you know we made it safely to Vermont, where Grouchy One and his sister grew up.
I got to renew my friendship with Fozzie, Grouchy’s sister’s cat, who is very nice. Which is not meant as a criticism of "other" cats. But it is a relief to be around at least one who doesn’t lurk around corners, waiting with drawn claws to ambush an unsuspecting dog, or a cat who doesn’t wait on the stairs, blocking a dog’s safe passage to the second floor. Again, meaning nothing by way of comparison to “other” cats.
I know that you think I’m a sucker for marches, protests and parades, but the fact is, while I’m likely to meet a couple of interesting dogs – strangely, no one seems to ever bring their cats – there’s a lot of other things I’d rather be doing than going to rallies, such as sleeping in the sun or sniffing out decaying road kill.
But I was curious to see what kind of a turnout they’d get in Middlebury, which is a college town, and not exactly a place with a huge population to ensure a big turnout. There are only an estimated 8,500 estimated residents, and furthermore, its in a state with a strong gun culture.
Really. Most outsiders probably don't think of Vermont as an AR-15 kind of place. But it is, or was, a big farming state, with huge forests and lots of deer and other tasty things to shoot, kill and eat, so guns have had a place in many homes.
VERMONT MAY indeed be the most liberal state in the country – people stop their cars to let you cross the street even when you are just getting out of bed and haven’t even got your shoes on yet. And the last piece of roadside litter was spotted in Vermont was in 1936 in the town of Lyndon, where there is an official Historical Plaque marking the spot.
But gun culture runs deep. Even Mr. Liberal himself, Bernie-I-Could-Have-Beaten-Trump -Sanders, the state's independent US. Senator has been squirrely about gun control.
But the bottom line: a good 300 folks turned out for the noon demonstration on the Middlebury Town Green, and it was a heck of a crowd, too: a German shepherd, three golden retrievers and four black labs, some sort of border collie mix, who kept giving me the hairy eye and a very cute white furry thing the size of a half-eaten loaf of bread.
As for the people, the crowd was really integrated agewise and in gender. Very cute little kids who LOVE sweet dogs like myself; mountain men with beards down to their knees; school kids; teachers (you could tell them because their signs were spelled correctly and said that they weren't looking forward to their students being gunned down in their classrooms), families pushing baby carriages, old people with walkers,- middle-aged ladies pushing petitions.
Many progressive organizations were represented. In fact, there seemed to be a progressive organization for every 10 residents, from gun control groups, to a domestic violence outfit, a local chapter of Veterans Against Violence, Unitarians, of course, and I think one of the speakers was police officer, so it’s possible that in Vermont, some police departments count as reform nonprofits. A pediatrician spoke about guns being a public health crisis. Someone from Black Lives Matters spoke.
It actually was quite moving. There was a high school student who said that since the Parkland, Florida shooting, where 17 people were murdered on Valentine’s Day, prompting students to embark on this massive and most hopeful surge of gun control advocacy, said that fire drills freak her out these days. And that when she goes to school, even though she's an ornery teenager, she actually kisses her mother goodbye on the chance that will be the last time she’ll see her before a gunman shows up during physics. Her voice almost breaking, she said it was time for Montpelier and Washington to act. to stop this madness. (For those of you who don't watch “Jeopardy," the correct question to the answer, "The capital of Vermont," is: "What is Montpelier?")
In fact, just a day ago, the Vermont House passed a bill that would raise the age of gun purchase to 21, limit gun magazine capacity to 10 rounds, mandate background checks on all would-be gun purchasers and ban bump stocks. That was after TEN hours of debate. The bill has a way to go, including final passage in the House, and then over to the Senate.
A description of this bill drew loud chants from a portion of the crowd: "We want a ban. We want a ban," referring to a drive to outlaw military style weapons.
Which even a sweet dog like myself found encouraging, rather than ungrateful, since this gun thing is a long-term issue, and it's good to see people committed to more solutions.
At the same time, the Vermont bill shows the difference that savvy, articulate high school kids already have made.
So, yes, Cat, I went to yet another demonstration, and it was inspiring, even though I’m sure you were glad to have stayed indoors back in Newport, just as Fozzie was content to have stayed home in a sun-filled room in Middlebury.
Incidentally, we brought him home a “March for Our Lives” sign and he seemed grateful, just as I’m sure, Cat, you will be when we bring one for you on Monday, when we return from our super short visit to the Green Mountain State.
Well, one step at a time. The Middlebury demonstration started off with civil rights and peace movement anthems like “We Shall Not Be Moved” and “This Land is Your Land” and “Blowing in the Wind.”
Those are voices and messages that presidents, even the loony ones, ignore at their peril.